Some might look at the Colorado football team as a program filled with problems.
After all, the Buffaloes are coming off a 1-11 season, have played in only two bowl games in the last 15 seasons and have had more coaches than winning seasons in the past two decades.
Andre Hart has a different view of the CU program, however.
“We’re excited to conquer this problem that most people say we have,” said Hart, the Buffaloes’ first-year linebackers coach. “I don’t think it’s a problem here at all. I think what it is is just a change of energy that needs to happen, just a focus on what Colorado football was and has been for a very long time, back in the ’90s when I was growing up.”
Hart, who has worked with new CU head coach Deion Sanders for the past few years, isn’t short on energy or confidence. And, he knows a bit about CU after having played against the Buffs during his time as a player at Kansas State.
“I just remember that they were a very disciplined team,” he said. “I remember the fans and I remember a hard-nosed physical game. That’s what I remember the most.”
That’s what Hart aims to bring back to Colorado, especially on defense.
“That’s about winning hard-nosed games, coming down and hitting you in the mouth and making sure you love it when we do it,” he said. “I don’t see anything that’s going to be challenging about here or anywhere I’ve been in the past because you have to have the confidence that you can turn things around and I think that’s where we’re at.”
Sanders and his coaches often say they want players who are “smart, tough, fast and disciplined, with character.” When it comes to the linebacker room at CU, Hart believes that group is off to a good start in that regard.
“What I found out in that room is you have a bunch of smart, tough – I don’t know about fast yet; we’ll figure that out soon enough – but disciplined and character kids, which is amazing,” he said. “I mean that’s something that you look for as a coach.”
CU doesn’t get on the field for the first time with the new staff until March 19, when spring practices begin, but Hart has been impressed so far.
It’s a linebacker group that includes Clemson transfer LaVonta Bentley, who was a reserve with the Tigers but highly productive when he got a chance to play.
The Buffs graduated all three starting linebackers from last year (Robert Barnes, Josh Chandler-Semedo and Quinn Perry), but return some intriguing backups who will compete for starting roles.
Juniors Marvin Ham II and Isaac Hurtado have some experience, as does sophomore Mister Williams. Sophomores Eoghan Kerry and Aubrey Smith are young players who were highly regarded by the previous coaching staff.
“They’re all willing to learn, they’re all eager to change this thing around and become what they came to be and that’s a champion and a winner,” Hart said. “I can’t wait to see them on the field with pads on, though, so I can get a true evaluation of the game as they play it. But right now they’re eager.
“Their eyes are open, they’re soaking everything up like a sponge and they’re ready to go. And they believe in the change that we have going on here.”
Hart is a big part of that change and he’s eager to not only win with the Buffs, but to continue his coaching path with Sanders.
“When you are mentored by somebody, I always like to tell them where I want to go and I told (Sanders) I wanted to be a head coach,” Hart said. “Since that day has happened, he’s brought me along and took me everywhere that he’s been and I’m appreciative of that. He’s opened doors and I’ve been able to get into places that I might not have been able to get in myself.
“Because of that, my personality has shined, my hard work has shined and he’s given me the avenue to become a head coach and I will be.”